I have borrowed the following from the website of Aiko's Art Materials of Chicago. It was announced recently that Aiko's will be ceasing operations in the very near future. Although Aiko's is technically a competitor, we have both referred customers to each other for years. It is with true sadness that we bid farewell to this remarkable company, and wish their staff the best in the future.
Mrs. Aiko Nakane (1908-2004), the founder of Aiko’s Art Materials, was instrumental in bringing handmade Japanese paper and it’s aesthetic to the United States. Born in Seattle in 1908, Mrs. Nakane attended high school in Japan and was exposed to such traditional crafts as shodo (calligraphy) and ikebana (flower arranging.) She recalled the daily household use of Japanese paper whether to simply wrap a gift or to present an item of food at a meal. She liked to tell of the time her mother tightly rolled a piece of paper to tie her daughter’s hair back when a ribbon or hair band could not be found.
In the early 1950’s, back in the United States as a student at the Art Institute of Chicago, Mrs. Nakane would give Japanese art supplies and papers as omiyage (gifts) to fellow students and friends in the art community upon returning from trips to Japan. Her friends loved the items and clamored for more – thus the beginning of her store, Aiko’s Art Materials.
Since the mid-1950’s Aiko’s Art Materials has provided both supplies and services to its customers. What began as a small concern for a select few in the Midwest has gradually evolved into a global business with orders routinely shipped out to distant destinations in Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa. Yet, in spite of this expansion, Aiko’s still provides that personal, distinctive style that has been a hallmark of the store since its inception.
Specializing in washi (handmade Japanese paper), Aiko’s carries hundreds of Japanese papers, plain and decorated, which make up over ninety-five percent of the inventory. An infinite variety of colors, textures and designs is displayed – enough to tempt every imagination with endless possibilities. The shop serves artists, bookbinders, painters and crafters and those in book and art restoration and conservation.Brushes are another important aspect of Aiko’s Art Materials. Over one hundred different types of brushes can be found in the shop. They are made up of materials ranging from badger and horsehair to sheep and weasel hair. All shapes and sizes specially formulated for use, be it calligraphy, brush painting, stencil dyeing or painting can be found at Aiko’s. The majority of the brushes are handmade and produced in Japan.